Study: Fashion Industry Needn't Fear Natural Beauty

New research shows that women prefer someone modeling clothing that looks more like them.

Magazines and ads all seem to flaunt the same size-zero-waist model, touting a product you should consider adding to your closet. Fashion marketers have continued with the trend, and their products continue to sell. Don't try to fix anything that isn't broken, right?


However, new research from the University of Kent suggests that they may be losing-out on potential sales by trying to airbrush natural beauty.

Few companies have campaigned for natural beauty or even waistlines that are more representative of their consumer-base. Dove is one of the few in the industry, and it's for soap. However, the fashion industry has done little to step forward and realize size-zero models don't represent the only waist size out there. Countries have stepped in, trying to regulate models, by enacting a minimum BMI as a way to curb young teens from trying to attain the unreachable forms of beauty they see in the catalogs. Dr. Xuemei Bian is trying to convince the fashion industry in another way — by letting them know their bottom line may be suffering. Because what moves companies to action better than letting them know they can make more money?

In several studies, researchers asked women from ages 18 to 25 to select which brand they preferred — one being worn by a zero-sized model or another being worn by the average-sized model. The model would be wearing either a well-known brand or a new brand of clothing that the women hadn't heard of. The researchers also factored in the women's self-reported self-esteem levels to see if that played a role in their selection.

The researchers found that, when it came to well-known brands, average-sized models and zero-sized models could be exchanged without hurting preference toward a brand. However, they found newer brands fared better when they used average-sized models. What's more, these judgments were even more pronounced among women who indicated that they had low self-esteem.

Dr. Bian explained in a press release:

“The issue of fashion industry use of skinny models is very controversial and we have even seen France's parliament considering a ban. Our research shows that the fashion industry has nothing to fear from using average-sized models in its marketing campaigns, and could even find that it sells more of its products by doing so.”

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